“Million Clouds” sung in dulcet, relaxing tones by Maaya Sakamoto is the perfect opening song for Amanchu!. As Futaba Ooki looks out at the vastness of the ocean while waves lap at her feet in the sand, it’s clear that Amanchu! is going to be another Kozue Amano property in the similar vein of Aria — allowing viewers’ cares to melt away throughout the episode, or with each beautiful note of the opening song.
I was initially going to write about Futaba’s first day in school, comparing Amanchu!’s focus on establishing the seaside setting of Ito on the Izu Peninsula as a main character of the series alongside Hikari Kohinata and Futaba. When revisiting the opening, I was struck by how pointed the visuals were, especially having watched the first episode entirely.
Amanchu!‘s initial sequence in the opening shows Futaba — a newcomer to the area from Tokyo — stepping into the ocean barefoot. It begins with a close-up of her feet as they hit the shallow water before the water recedes, cutting to a shot of her staring out into the ocean with an uncertain look on her face. As the title comes into view, the camera pans out to show the vastness of the ocean.
Since Amanchu! is trying to establish the ocean, and Ito, as its own character, it pans out to show not only Futaba’s tiny figure against the expanse of the ocean but it shows the ocean by itself, panning out further so that only the ocean, the sky, and a small outcropping of land is visible. When the camera returns to Futaba, she smiles as Hikari walks up beside her.
The first episode makes it abundantly clear that Futaba suffers from social anxiety, evidenced by her stunted conversations, inner monologue prior to her in-class introduction, and the few words she does manage to squeak out to the class during said introduction. Going back through the opening sequence reiterates this over and over, with the aforementioned worried look across the sea and another scene that shows her isolated in the classroom by her window seat, gazing out the window.
Presumably, much of the series will involve Futaba finding her own place in Ito through befriending Hikari and learning how to scuba dive.
Diving is featured prominently in the opening, including another sequence that involves Futaba acquainting herself with the ocean — initially bracing herself before gazing, wide-eyed, at the scenery. She is then surrounded by her new Ito friends. Later, when she gazes up at the sun, she smiles.
The next sequence was my personal favorite, and what caught my eye when I rewatched the opening after the first episode. Throughout Amanchu! Episode 1, Futaba is glued to her cell phone. When she first meets Hikari’s grandmother, she’s flipping through old photos of her friends and checking for new messages. Futaba repeats her constant scouring and scanning for messages several times during the first episode, but is always met with an alert indicating that she hasn’t received any.
This casts a slightly melancholy shadow over her presence and demeanor — Hikari is quick to distract her from this — hinting that her Tokyo friends certainly aren’t as concerned about her well-being as she is with theirs, or any ties to her former life. Her checking is natural — when moving to a new place we often struggle to move forward, grasping at anything familiar. The opening promises that Futaba will eventually find a new life in Ito with Hikari and others, but doesn’t forget that she must acquiesce to moving forward first.
First come pictures of the sky and sunflowers, followed by an old picture of Futaba and her Tokyo friends, and finally a new photo of Futaba and her comparatively boisterous Ito crew. Futaba then squeezes her cell phone tightly in her hand. Her hands are next shown in Hikari’s hands as the two hold hands underwater in wetsuits.
It’s simple and straightforward, but Amanchu!‘s opening also underlines Futaba’s anxiety and upcoming transformation through its visuals in a surprisingly effective manner. Amanchu! doesn’t disregard Futaba’s apprehension or unease at relocating to a strange and unfamiliar place, but promises that she’ll find happiness once she’s ready to move forward.